Remote Voting and Beyond: How Tech Will Transform Government From the Inside Out

Springwise: “…Technology, and in particular the internet, are often seen as potential stumbling blocks for government. But this perception acts as a brake on innovation in public services and in politics more generally. By embracing technology, rather than warily containing it, governments globally could benefit hugely. In terms of formulating and executing policy, technology can help governments become more transparent, accountable and effective, while improving engagement and participation from regular citizens.

On engagement, for instance, technology is opening up new avenues which make taking part in the political process far more straightforward. Springwise-featured Harvard startup Voatz are building a platform that allows users to vote, make campaign donations and complete opinion polls from their smartphones. The app, which uses biometric authentication to ensure that identities are comprehensively verified, could well entice younger voters who are alienated by the ballot box. Melding the simplicity of apps with sophisticated identity verification technology, Voatz is just one example of how tech can disrupt government for good.

From the Ground Up…

The potential for active participation goes far beyond voting. E-focus groups, online petitions and campaign groups have the power to transform the interaction between political establishments and citizens. From fact-checking charities enabled by crowdfunding such as UK-based Full Fact to massive national campaigns conducted online, citizens connected by technology are using their collective power to reshape government in democratic countries. Under other regimes, such as in the People’s Republic of China, vigilante citizens are circumventing extensive firewalls to shine a light on official misconduct.

…and the Top Down

As well as an abundance of citizen-led efforts to improve governance, there are significant moves from governments themselves to shake-up public service delivery. Even, flawed though the roll-out was, marks a hugely ambitious piece of government reform underpinned by technology. Indeed, Obama has shown an unprecedented willingness to embrace technology in his two terms, appointing chief information and technology officers, promising to open up government data and launching the @POTUS Twitter account last month. Clearly, recognition is there from governments that technology can be a game changer for their headline policies.

While many countries are using technology for individual projects, there is one government that is banking its entire national success on tech – Estonia. The tiny, sparsely populated country in Eastern Europe is one of the most technologically advanced in the world. Everything from citizen IDs to tax returns and health records make use of technology and are efficient and ‘future-proofed’ as a result.

Whether as a threat or an opportunity, technology represents a transformative influence on government. Its potential as a disruptive, reshaping force has fed a narrative that casts technology as a looming threat and a destabiliser of conventional power structures. But harnessed properly and executed effectively, technology can remold government for the better, improving big public service projects, raising participation and engaging a young population whose default is digital….(More)”